26 October 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

A comfort food if there ever was one.  Few things are more satisfying than sitting down with a big bowl of macaroni and cheese.  It is one of my favorite things that Grandpa used to make.  I couldn't track down his recipe, but seeing how my grandparents always had San Giorgio pasta in the pantry, I suspect his recipe may have came from the back of the box, with a few modifications.

It's those modifications that I can't put my finger on.  I've come close, but it still isn't exactly what I am looking for.  I'm pretty sure Grandpa added sauteed onions to his mac and cheese which is something I have yet to try.  Another secret ingredient that was sprinkled on top of the macaroni and cheese when I was growing up was dulse. 

Dulse is a red algae that grows along the the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  It is used as a flavor enhancer and it adds a wonderful flavor element to macaroni and cheese.  Plus, the little red flecks are visually appealing and leave people guessing as to what it could possibly be.  I can't really describe the flavor, but it is unique, and my mac and cheese is much better with it.  I don't know who started putting dulse on the macaroni and cheese in my family, but it probably has something to do with my aunt owning a natural food store.

My macaroni and cheese has become a staple at Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, and there is rarely any left in the dish.  It is rich, creamy, and delicious, with just the right amount of crunch along the top and sides.  The perfect accompaniment to almost any meal, especially during the autumn and winter months.

Macaroni and Cheese

8 oz elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dulse (optional)
Fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Cook macaroni according to package directions in salted water and drain. 

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour, salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of dulse.  Whisk in the milk until combined and free of lumps.  Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally.  Then add the shredded cheese and stir to combine.

Fold the cooked macaroni into the cheese mixture and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of dulse.  Bake for 30 minutes and allow to rest for five minutes before serving.

Recipe can be easily doubled and baked in a 9 x 13 pan.

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